the 73-acre park for three holes of a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. The course is the centerpiece of the $430 million Harbor Shores development planned to cover 530 acres in Benton Harbor, Benton Township and St. Joseph.
Benton Harbor City Manager Richard Marsh said city leaders and Harbor Shores developers do not believe the plaintiffs’ argument has any merit.
“We believe that a public golf course is, indeed, acceptable as a public park use,” said Marcus Robinson, a Harbor Shores trustee and president and CEO of Citizens for Progressive Change.
City leaders and developers have emphasized Benton Harbor is planning to lease – not sell – the land to Harbor Shores, so it will remain part of a city-owned park.
The city and Harbor Shores have agreed on an arrangement for the lease of the 22 acres for three holes of the course. The National Park Service has been reviewing the agreement since June 16 and, because the agency awarded the city a $50,000 grant for park improvements in the 1970s, has the power to allow or reject the lease.
Scott Howard, a Traverse City attorney representing Drake and Bury, said that if the NPS approves the lease agreement while the lawsuit is still pending, he will request a preliminary injunction against construction at the park until the suit is resolved.
Harbor Shores has agreed to maintain
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the remainder of Jean Klock Park, pay Benton Harbor at least $35,000 per year for use of the 22 acres and add more than 38 acres of park land in other parts of the city.
Park preservationists have argued that the acreage offered by Harbor Shores does not match the monetary or recreational value of the land in Jean Klock Park.
The Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course will be open to the public, but will charge fees ranging from $65 to $225 per round, Harbor Shores trustee Mark Mitchell told The Herald-Palladium last August. Robinson said at Monday’s Benton Harbor City Commission meeting that city leaders should be “ticked off” about the lawsuit, adding that it “represents injustice against residents of Benton Harbor.”
“I encourage you to stand your ground,” Robinson told the commission. “I stand with you. If they want to fight, let them bring it on.”
The City Commission voted 6-2 to hire the law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone to represent the city in the matter. Commissioner Juanita Henry and Mayor Wilce Cooke voted against the motion and Commissioner David Shaw was not at the meeting.
Henry said she voted against hiring the firm because she was not completely pleased with work it had done for the city in the past. Cooke did not explain his vote.
Marsh said Harbor Shores has agreed to pay the legal bills.
Several city commissioners expressed anger and frustration with the lawsuit and what they called a small minority opposing the Harbor Shores project.
“I always say it’s the Friends of Jean Klock Park; it’s not the Friends of Benton Harbor Citizens,” Commissioner Ricky